Freemasons' Hall, London

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Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street, London Freemasons' Hall, London.JPG
Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street, London

Freemasons' Hall in London is the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England and the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England, as well as being a meeting place for many Masonic Lodges in the London area. It is located in Great Queen Street between Holborn and Covent Garden and has been a Masonic meeting place since 1775. There have been three Masonic buildings on the site, with the current incarnation being opened in 1933. [ citation needed ].

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

United Grand Lodge of England Grand Lodge in England

The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) is the governing Masonic lodge for the majority of freemasons in England, Wales and the Commonwealth of Nations. Claiming descent from the Masonic grand lodge formed 24 June 1717 at the Goose & Gridiron Tavern in London, it is considered to be the oldest Masonic Grand Lodge in the world. Together with the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the Grand Lodge of Ireland, they are often referred to by their members as "the home Grand Lodges" or "the Home Constitutions".

Holy Royal Arch Degree of Freemasonry

The Holy Royal Arch is a degree of Freemasonry. The Royal Arch is present in all main masonic systems, though in some it is worked as part of Craft ('mainstream') Freemasonry, and in others in an appendant ('additional') order. Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter; in the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch as practised in the British Isles, much of Europe and the Commonwealth, Chapters confer the single degree of Royal Arch Mason.


Parts of the building are open to the public daily, and its preserved classic Art Deco style, together with its regular use as a film and television location, have made it a tourist destination.

Art Deco Influential visual arts design style which first appeared in France during the 1920s

Art Deco, sometimes referred to as Deco, is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France just before World War I. Art Deco influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theatres, trains, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners. It took its name, short for Arts Décoratifs, from the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes held in Paris in 1925. It combined modern styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. During its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress.

In 1846, the World Evangelical Alliance was founded here.[ citation needed ]

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is a global organization of evangelical Christian churches, serving more than 600 million evangelicals, founded in 1846 in London, England, United Kingdom to unite evangelicals worldwide. WEA is the largest international organization of evangelical churches, and is now headquartered in Chicago, Manila, and Bonn. It brings together 7 regional and 129 evangelical alliances of churches, and over 150 member organizations. Some of the national alliances include Protestant churches which are not traditional Evangelical churches in the strict sense. Moreover, the WEA includes a certain percentage of individual evangelical Christian churches. It is open for membership of individual evangelical Christians. The Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom, its founding member, is part of WEA.

Original concept

In 1775 the premier [1] Grand Lodge purchased a house fronting the street, behind which was a garden and a second house. A competition was held for the design of a Grand Hall to link the two houses. The front house was the Freemasons' Tavern, the back house was to become offices and meeting rooms. The winning design was by Thomas Sandby.

Freemasons Tavern

The Freemasons' Tavern was established in 1775 at 61-65 Great Queen Street in the West End of London. It served as a meeting place for a variety of notable organisations from the eighteenth century until it was demolished to make way for the Connaught Hotel in 1909.

Thomas Sandby British artist

Thomas Sandby was an English draughtsman, watercolour artist, architect and teacher. In 1743 he was appointed private secretary to the Duke of Cumberland, who later appointed him Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park, where he was responsible for considerable landscaping work.

Current building

Freemasons' Hall, London, c. 1809 Microcosm of London Plate 038 - Freemasons' Hall.jpg
Freemasons' Hall, London, c. 1809

The current building, the third on this site, was built between 1927 and 1933 in the art deco style to the designs of architects Henry Victor Ashley and F. Winton Newman as a memorial to the 3,225 Freemasons who died on active service in World War I.

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War, the Great War, the Seminal Catastrophe, and initially in North America as the European War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

It is an imposing Art Deco building, covering two and a quarter acres (0.9 ha). Initially known as the Masonic Peace Memorial, the name was changed to Freemasons' Hall at the outbreak of the World War II in 1939. The financing for building the hall was raised by the Masonic Million Memorial Fund. This fund raised over £1 million. It is a Grade II* listed building, both internally and externally. [2]

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Listed building Protected historic structure in the United Kingdom

A listed building, or listed structure, is one that has been placed on one of the four statutory lists maintained by Historic England in England, Historic Environment Scotland in Scotland, Cadw in Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.

Points of interest

Grand Temple

The Grand Temple set up for a meeting Freemasons Hall London Grand Temple.jpg
The Grand Temple set up for a meeting

Central to the present building is the Grand Temple, meeting place for Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter and a majority of the lodges in the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London, as well as the annual meetings of a number of the Home Counties Provincial Grand Lodges, and for other Masonic degrees and orders to hold their annual meetings.

Many non-Masonic organisations also use the Grand Temple for numerous events as diverse as Fashion show s and Polytechnic award ceremonies. Bronze doors, each weighing one and a quarter tonnes, open on to a Chamber 123 feet (37 m) long, 90 feet (27 m) wide and 62 feet (19 m) high capable of seating 1,700. [3]

The ceiling cove is of Mosaic work and in addition to figures and symbols from Masonic ritual includes, in the corner, figures representing the four cardinal virtuesPrudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice – and the Arms of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (second youngest son of Queen Victoria) Grand Master 1901–1939, at whose suggestion the Masonic Peace Memorial was built.

A superb large pipe organ is installed, built by leading British organ builders Henry Willis & Sons and recently magnificently restored by Harrison and Harrison of Durham being completed in 2015 with funds provided by Supreme Grand Chapter, the governing body for Royal Arch Masonry in England, Wales and the Channel Islands; this work included the provision of a new "Grand" section of the instrument housed in a matching new case immediately behind and above the console, thus making three - rather than the two original 1933 structures - in total. The inaugural recital on the restored instrument was given on 30 September 2015 by Dr Thomas Trotter, Organist of Birmingham Town Hall and St Margaret's Church Westminster Abbey.

Other Temples

Front exterior of Freemasons' Hall Front exterior of Freemasons' Hall, London.jpg
Front exterior of Freemasons' Hall

In addition to the Grand Temple, there are a further 26 masonic temples (formal lodge meeting rooms) within the building, used by Lodges and Chapters. All are highly ornate in their various art deco styles, and no two are identical. Amongst the temples which are of particular note, Temple No 1 was very large (seating up to 600) and contained a series of portraits of former Grand Masters. However, the temple was converted into a conference space, by removing the furnishings and Willis pipe organ (though the portraits remain).

Temple No 3, although of no unusual style in itself, contains a nineteenth-century chamber organ of note (fully restored around 2012); Temple No 10 (where the designers had additional height and space due to its location beneath the large clock tower) is built in a style which combines classic art deco with Egyptian design, and includes an impressive high domed ceiling, and also a Willis pipe organ (awaiting restoration); Temple No 11 was largely funded by donations from Japan and the Far East, and is consequently decorated in a lavish style, dominated by stylised Chrysanthemums, the national flower of Japan; Temple No 12 is known as the Burma Temple for similar reasons, and is decorated with stylised Burmese artwork, and a plaque recording the contributions of Freemasons from British Burma.

Temple No 16 has a distinctive and highly decorated barrel vault ceiling; Temple No 17 was largely funded by the Freemasons of Buckinghamshire, and has a very large carved swan (the symbol of Buckinghamshire) on one wall; it also enjoys a more than usually ornate decorative style, with extensive oak panelling, and is used in particular by the most ancient lodges in London, including the three remaining lodges (of four originals) which pre-date 1717 and the formation of the Grand Lodge itself; until 2018, Temple No 23 was the smallest (seating approximately 35 people) and contained a series of portraits of former Grand Secretaries, [4] but in that year this temple was renamed "The Kent Room" and made available for public examination as part of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry (although it can also still be used for lodge meetings); at the same time, three brand new small temples were created (with a capacity of around 20 people in each), numbered as Temples 25, 26, and 27, as provision for meetings of very small Lodges; these new temples were created out of space that was formerly two residential flats, as the number of residential staff living in the building has greatly reduced.

In addition to these 26 Temples, and the Grand Temple, there are several very simple and plain temples reserved for 'Lodges of Instruction' and 'Lodges of Rehearsal'. Unlike the Grand Temple and the Kent Room (of which public tours are available daily) the other temples (and the rehearsal temples) are not normally open to the public, as they are in constant demand by private London Lodges and Chapters for their regular meetings. Approximately 1800 lodges and chapters meet regularly in London, and a high proportion of these meet at Freemasons' Hall.

Museum of Freemasonry

Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons' Hall Museum-of-freemasonry-north-gallery-2-2018.jpg
Museum of Freemasonry at Freemasons' Hall

The Museum of Freemasonry is a museum, library and archive based in Freemasons' Hall covering Freemasonry and other fraternal orders. The Museum is a Charitable Trust registered with the Charity Commission (Registered Charity number 1058497).

In 2007 the collection of the Museum of Freemasonry was recognised through the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s Designation Scheme as being of outstanding quality and significance and of national and international importance. [5]

The Museum is open to the general public and entry is free of charge. The Museum has a collection of Masonic artworks, ceremonial objects and regalia, as well as everyday objects with Masonic decoration, including clocks, furniture, glassware, jewellery, porcelain, pottery and silver.

The Library is open to the public for reference use and users are required to register. The Library contains a comprehensive collection of printed books and manuscripts on every facet of Freemasonry in England, as well as material on Freemasonry elsewhere in the world, and on subjects associated with Freemasonry or with mystical and esoteric traditions. The Library catalogue is available online. [6] In addition to its core Masonic collections, The Museum of Freemasonry holds a wide selection of items relating to Friendly Societies such as the Oddfellows, Foresters and many other societies both current and no longer in existence. A large collection of Friendly Societies books, especially relating to the Oddfellows and the Foresters, are also held by the Library.

The Museum provides a genealogical enquiry service. However, there is no complete alphabetical index of Freemasons publicly available. [7]

The Museum of Freemasonry also presents workshops, events, and a major thematic exhibition, as well as several smaller exhibitions during the course of the year. Admission to all exhibitions is free. [8]

Other facilities

The War Memorial in the Vestibule to the Grand Temple Freemasons Hall London War Memorial.jpg
The War Memorial in the Vestibule to the Grand Temple

In addition to the Grand Temple, the other temples, and the Library and Museum, the building contains extensive administrative offices, storage space for the property of the many hundreds of lodges meeting in the building, a masonic shop (open to the public during normal trading hours), board rooms, workshops, archives, a members' drawing room, and an entire floor of charities administration, where the combined masonic charities have their administration.

The Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London is also administered from the building. It has around 40,000 Freemasons as members, which makes it the largest of the Masonic provinces. [9]

Architectural fittings

Throughout the building Robert Adams (Victor) range of floor springs are used to control the doors, including the "Sceptre Victor." Windows are also controlled by Robert Adams geared fan light operators. [10]

Brother Luke Howard (Eleanor Cross Lodge No.1764 of the province of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire) was passed in the Second Degree on 25th March 2017 in celebration of the Tercentenary of Freemasonry. This was an historic moment for the province as it was its first ceremony within the Grand Temple. Hundreds of Masons from around the province attended this occasion as part of the provinces Tercentenary celebrations, a once in a generation event.

In 2016, a part of the film Assassin's Creed was filmed in the Grand Temple. Re-labeled as "The Grand Templar Hall", the Temple is used as the antagonist's location for his award ceremony towards the end of the film. The Hall is seen sporting double Templar Crosses on the facade of the Temple. [11]

Like Sandby's Grand Hall, the Grand Temple is also used for concerts and musical events – having excellent acoustics and clear sight-lines. In September 2014, Freemasons' Hall hosted several fashion shows as a part of London Fashion Week 2014. [12]

The building is used both internally and externally as a stand-in for Thames House (the home of MI5) in the TV series Spooks [13] and in the TV series Spy [ citation needed ] and has also featured extensively in the long-running series of TV films Agatha Christie's Poirot . The building makes frequent one-off appearances in episodes of other television series, such as its extensive use in Hustle , series 5, episode 2. Both its exterior and interior were used in an episode of New Tricks , and the interior has been used for the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where Freemasons' Hall becomes the temple in which the "Jatravartid" people pray for "the coming of the Great White Handkerchief". It has also been used in many other feature films, including Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London , The Wings of the Dove, Johnny English , Sherlock Holmes , [14] and the television adaptation of The Line of Beauty . The building has also featured as a backdrop in music videos, including extensive use (internally and externally) in the music video for Westlife's cover of Mandy .

The 2013 crypto-thriller The Sword of Moses by Dominic Selwood has numerous scenes set in Freemasons' Hall. [15]

See also


  1. There were several early masonic grand lodges. The term "premier" refers to the grand lodge created in London in 1717.
  2. Historic England. "Grade II* (1113218)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  3. Chilton, H.F.D. (March 1949). "The doors of the Temple". Masonic Record.
  4. Haunch, Terrance O (1983). Freemasons' Hall: the home and heritage of the Craft. London: United Grand Lodge of England. ISBN   0-901075-09-4.
  5. Museums, Libraries and Archives Council "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. Catalogue Service
  7. Museum Website "Family history" . Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  8. Current Exhibitions "Exhibitions" . Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  9. "London Masonry ~ supporting the community". 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  10. "Blog". Midlands Floor Springs Limited. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  11. "Filming locations of Assassin's Creed (2016)". IMDb. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  12. "London Fashion Week 2014 at Freemasons' Hall - Freemasonry Today". Archived from the original on 26 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  13. "Thames House". MI5 - The Security Service. MI5. Archived from the original on 15 September 2015.
  14. "Sherlock Villain Kicks Ass". IGN . 3 December 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2008.
  15. Farleigh, Andrew. "The Sword of Moses". The Square Magazine. Retrieved 21 April 2014.

Coordinates: 51°30′54″N0°07′16″W / 51.5151°N 0.1210°W / 51.5151; -0.1210

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